I can call you Kate, right? I mean, we writers are all one great, big “us,” right? And, after all, Red Hen once published a piece of mine in the Los Angeles Review. You won’t think this letter is “sour grapes” if your own damn lit mag once published me?
I’m sorry to have to bother you, because goddamn, I can’t even imagine how fucking hard it is for a white publisher living in lonely, lonely Los Angeles when we marginalized writers get all uppity about petty issues like EVERY disability panel getting rejected or the AWP conference failing to accommodate for disabilities, or to represent its diverse membership, or even to recognize the basic humanity of people of color.
It’s awfully rude of me to ruin your transcendent experience of “being part of something bigger” by asking if pretty please, could I be part it, too? … Please accept my sincere apology.
And now that I have that out of the way …
- In your Huffpost piece, you wrote:* (UPDATE: The original Huffpost piece has been removed and replaced with a non-apology, but the original is cached here.)
AWP — Associated Writing Programs is a membership organization which connects writers, MFA programs and publishers, but many of those members treat it like it’s the government out to oppress us, the man, the ogre in the closet. When we get upset, we hurl insults or questions via the web. Social media and emails allow us to behave like we’re driving on a freeway. From our cars, we remain invisible. We can drive like crazy people, and we have the option of yelling threats from the safety of our offices at the organization that includes us. I have news for you people, there is no us and them. AWP is us.
No, Kate, my speaking out about disability exclusion at AWP is not like “driving on a freeway.” Some of us have NEVER DRIVEN ON A FREEWAY. Or on any road, because our disabilities preclude it. You see, I have epilepsy, and it’s not well-controlled, meaning I have no driver’s license. You lost me in the first paragraph.
Your Huffpost piece happened to publish on the same day I had to fire the only doctor I ever trusted because he opened a fancy clinic in the suburbs that is not accessible to me … because — wait for it! — SLC is designed for cars & public transit here leaves a lot to be desired. So for you to compare my speaking out about discrimination to “driving like crazy people” … well, my privileged, white, able-bodied darling, all it does is prove my point.
Also, did you seriously call us “crazy” for speaking up? As a person with bipolar disorder, I love it when people reduce me to “crazy.” It’s so empowering and inclusive. It makes me feel part of a great big joke.
You think Los Angeles makes you feel lonely and isolated now? Try living there with uncontrolled epilepsy and get back to me.
2. You also wrote:
One of the complaints lobbed at AWP is for not enough inclusion of different groups, another is for more transparency. This summer I was at a dinner and someone leaned across to me and confided, “AWP hates Native Americans.”
“Really now?” I said, “I’m going to be in Washington this summer and I’d love to discuss this with them.” I took out a pen and paper. “Who hates Indians at the office there? Is it Fenza?” I pictured David Fenza saddling up a horse, Stetson in place, going out to shoot Indians. It was an unlikely image. The woman began fumbling around; she couldn’t tell me who the Indian hater was.
So even though you were JUST griping in the first paragraph about social media sucker punches … Now you’re annoyed/amused/miffed because someone raised an issue with you in person?
WHERE, then, is the “proper” place to discuss it?
According to you, it’s the phone: “If we the people wish something could be different, one option is to call that office. A person will pick up the phone and talk to you if you do. A real live person.”
Well, isn’t that inclusive? I have trouble hearing. I can use the phone, but it’s not the easiest thing, and with my word-finding issues from Chiari, I stumble sometimes, and I tend to get flustered and stressed.
I can’t get to the conference to discuss it with a real live person *in person* … so that’s out. (And besides, look how you handled it when someone spoke up to you in person? Did you respond in a way that encourages others to do the same?)
These days, I am often in excruciating pain. Social media makes it possible for me to speak up in a way that I haven’t been able to before, and in a medium in which I can mostly manage my disabilities.
Be honest now … What you really mean is, you don’t want people raising these issues in public. You want it on the phone so nobody has to see it. Let’s keep these complaints our little secret.
You complained on the Internet about people complaining on the Internet. Hypocrite much? Is it only OK to blog, tweet, or FB-post about these issues when the author supports the status quo? Because that’s the vibe I’m getting.
Now, let me address your weird little fantasy of David Fenza saddling up to shoot “Indians.” As several people have pointed out in the comments on your piece, do you honestly believe that discrimination and hate always look like that? Seriously? Do you really think that an organization is magically free of institutionalized racism because you can’t point a finger at a specific individual for saying he hates _____ (fill-in-the-blank-here)?
I know you’re giddy from being part of something bigger now, but … as I like to remind my able-bodied friends: You are one head trauma away from being an epileptic like me. One car accident or infection away from losing a limb. One serious illness or injury away from losing your sight. You never know if your hearing will go. You never know if an emotional trauma will leave you with PTSD. Or if you will develop chronic pain or an autoimmune disease.
If you speak up on behalf of disabled writers, you might also be speaking up for your future self, one you have never imagined.
For more responses to Gale, check out:
Debbie Reese, who poses some very important questions about Kate Gale imagining the shooting of Native Americans: “I wonder if Gale has Native friends or colleagues? I wonder if she reads Native writers? The answer to those questions may be yes, but none of them came to mind in her imagining. Instead, she went to a historical time period. That reflects the tendency to think of Native peoples as part of the past, not present.”
24 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Kate Gale #AWP16”
Well said, Karrie, well said. As a person who sucks at these sort of things, I appreciate you speaking up for us.
This is brilliant. And I don’t think she noticed that her so-called humor depends on Fenza being not terribly tall and unlikely to look “heroic” (in her framing of cowboys, anyway) astride a horse. I bet HE noticed.
Sadly the cached link also goes to the non-apology – but it’s probably better for my blood pressure if I don’t read the original letter, it seems.
Oh, wow. Yesterday it was going to the article.
I tracked down a post with the full text … Here it is:
So that’s the full text. Yuck. I feel gross posting it.
I though this was a good summary, in case anyone here’s interested in catching up: http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com/2015/08/a-series-of-unfortunate-eventsawp-david.html
Awesome. Thank you!
I appreciate your direct and humorous approach to dealing with this issue. I went searching for the original article and instead found a post a day or two earlier (also on HuffPost) about overweight people and their delusions of health based on certain numbers. In it, she assumes people that overweight can’t run a mile. Two posts do not make a writer but she certainly didn’t win me over.
To my lovely community of writers and poets, with all my love
From the forthcoming AWP Album, working title
– well, let’s leave it untitled, shall we?
Track 1) You Can’t Kill Ideas
by crucifying a person.
Have we learned nothing, people?
2) Scapegoating Is A Distraction from the purpose at hand: a new dialogue is in order, and more to the cause, we poets dream of a new language (thank you, Adrienne) with which to have the discussion. We are the ones who create that language, and where should it be more aptly applied than in such conflicts? We need new rules and formats within which to address stirred concerns. We need to become astute architects who build, surpassing the palsied structures of attack, debate, one ups-manship and right vs. wrong.
3) When People Become Symbols, they serve a powerful purpose as a focal point of controversy. I’m grateful for them, for the most part. They serve to expose hidden collective beliefs, like it or not, their comments indicative of the underpinnings of ideas held by a percentage of the population. But let’s not confuse them with the issue, because then there’s not much hope of alteration, and though an humbly offered penitence does much to heal, it can not be expected.
4) The Overwhelming Question can’t be, though often is, “How do we run this person out of town?” (thank you, Westerns), or shame them for having the ideas, but “What desire is emerging here? What are we done with? What needs to be created now, and how?”
5) It Helps Sometimes To Think “what do we want to teach our children?” I don’t have them but I love and teach them. I want mine to rub their hands together and say “Oooo, this is juicy, we have to enter this room! This is the stuff of shift and connection! We can get some things done in here!” Pin the tail on the donkey may not be the best game this time. Or Archery with said writer as target Our game may be more like Tie the Bandana on, Here is a Stick, Now Find the Pinata and Strike Till Treasure Falls.
Its a long ass name for a game where everyone wins.
6) For Always,
where there is conflict, there is great treasure. Two truths, co-emerging for the sole purpose of bypassing duality. Opportunity, knocking.
That precludes attack! Why? Because by attacking, you’re just as guilty! You can’t attack while accusing someone else of attacking and not be held accountable for your own attack. Can’t ask someone else to do what you are not willing to do yourself. Duh.
(Thank you, fifth grade.)
By confusing the person with the conversation their remarks bring forth, the issue gets diverted. Remove the person for a moment. Look at the held beliefs, swaying in the wind. (Thank you, Laundry).
7) Now Ask,
what’s the proper forum to discuss this with eloquence and purpose? How can transformation be invited to the table?
What do we really want here?
8) Let’s Make It: (Jazzy sax track).
A panel on diversity in writing.
New presses. New books.
New mission statements.
True, deep apologies from those wearing the symbolic mantel (a tough job and often arrived at without being planned).
What do I want? DIVERSITY! Yeah man! Stir the pot! Show me your world.
9) Miracles Do Happen.
In Marianne Williamson’s evenings at the Saban, there have been many times where whole populations in the audience will stand up and address another population, apologizing for wrongs committed throughout history. It’s quite emotional. White people will address black, apologizing at length and personally, for what our ancestors did. People have apologized to Jews for the holocaust.
It is riveting, believe me. The Collective Unconscious of the room audibly shifts like a giant combination lock, and something comes free. (Thank you, locks).
10) There is True Power in Apology. Because the next thing that happens? Unavoidably, tears first, relief, hugs and forgiveness and laughter. Then, potential for a spankin’ new future.
So do you want to keep the fight?
Does the war serve you?
These are the questions one asks before shift.
11) Love, in Action.
12) Poetry, in motion.
1) Regarding The Letter written by Kate Gale:
Unfortunately, from the get go, the language is incendiary and patronizing, as if she too is invisible and hurling insults from a car. The overall tone is exceedingly arrogant, which dispels much of the good that may have been done had these points been addressed in a caring manner.
2) Shooting Injuns. Use of the images of the publisher Fenza shooting ‘Indians’ misses the humor mark. The use of the word ‘Indian’ is even more regrettable. The degrading reference to the Native American writer, who might have been addressed with compassion, is also – regrettable.
“Indian Hater”- oh dear. No.
3) Let My People Go. As a Jew, I am deeply embarrassed by this tirade in the fourth paragraph. I cringed. I turned colors.
4) The Fifth Paragraph would only be acceptable as a personal call to a life long friend who would then scold the sender soundly and hang up the phone, as loudly as these darn cell phones allow (thank you, technology, for robbing us of the one dramatic exit noise we could make when phones were phones. Thank you, doors for still being slammable). Or as an SNL sketch of two drunk, venting publishers at a diversity conference, having been given access to free hotel and bar. It should be cast with Tracey Morgan dressed as a white woman wielding a violently swinging leather purse, and Rachel Dratch as a gay black man in a suit three sizes too big. Both should have five whisky sour and five martini glasses, emptied, in non-linear rows covering said hotel bar. Both should have cigarettes that keep going out, and should be attempted to be lit with lighters that don’t work. There should be lots of pointing.
Actually, you might want to cut this paragraph.
5) Lovers Gonna Love. The last two paragraphs are almost acceptable, with the exception of the “haters” comment, and a still brisk and arrogant tone that does not represent the beautiful, sensitive publications that Red Hen Press has consistently put forth. I love their poets and their press. I do. But…
6) The Art of Apology
Ms. Gale does not do the Press justice, and owes them, as well as everyone else, a soul searching apology. The one submitted will not do.
7) Agreeing with Constantine
It may just be the eyes, but I agree with our much loved Mr. Constantine on all points but the most significant place of potential healing- I think going through the main points of the letter and taking responsibility for them is the key endeavor to healing this giant rift. Accountability is a must, to garner back our trust in the quality we have come to expect from Red Hen Press. And want to expect again.
Also, owning your shit creates shift. Not a line by line account, but at least an apology that encompasses the ills distributed and does not miss the mark by so great a distance.
Perhaps it’s selfish but I think we can turn this around. Indeed, as I was pursuing them as my primary publisher, my heart is a bit trounced at present. I’m hoping for a come back. (Thank you, baseball).
8) I Have Great Faith
in Red Hen Press, and hope their forthcoming statements will prove their commitment not only to diversity, but to the healing power of words, and their abundant embrace of all writers and humans.
These statements need a profoundly authentic retraction and Heartfelt apology.
9) Nothing Less Will Do.
(A sappy, happy love song).
10) Now, Back to It, better and with expanded vision and compassion. Yeah man. Love and Art!
Brilliant response– but why was original HUFFPOST article taken down? I’ve been trying to get into HUFFPOST for half my life and would never delete something published there!
But maybe Gale is more worried about her reputation. She is a very exclusive lady.
Excellent question. I question the journalistic ethics of taking it down. Why not post the apology as an update? It’s almost like she doesn’t understand how the Internet works.
Hi Karrie –
I really hope this finds you. So…totally share your frustrations with AWP. 2015 was my first. I was only there for my brother’s book release. But I wandered and made notes. Only 1 dis-lit press represented on the floor. Lots of obvious disabilities present…crutched wandering, rolling, being led. Likely many more like me (let’s say ‘gestational’ stage of MS) with no overly visible tells. Back in SoCal I contacted the handful of disability presses I had worked with: Wordgathering, Breath & Shadow, Pentimento, Kaleidoscope, and The Intima.
So I will be at AWP 2016. It is in my backyard and the ‘handful’ of presses expressed an interest in participating. Thus, the Disability Literature Consortium emerged. We ran an Indiegogo campaign. We’ll be in booth 1031. Distributing hard copies from those presses and the often overlooked tasty work from the vast disability cannon. Trying to arrange an offsite reading as well. Wondering if I can bring a coffee maker.
I don’t know who you are. I’ve read several of your pieces in the last two days. I know somebody out there thinks you crazy. I know you don’t have a book yet (right?). But I believe it would be quite grand, quite zesty, and horribly marvelously relevant to have a chapbook of your work stationed at our station.
Does the idea hold any appeal at all for you?
Sean J Mahoney
The Disability Literature Consortium sounds incredible! Wow! And now I have this excellent list of presses to seek out. Thank you for sharing them with me!
I don’t think I will be at AWP16 (boycotting), but several friends have been making the case for me to come to LA, anyway, so I am thinking about it.
And yes, your idea appeals to me! I will get in touch via email.
One last note Karrie –
If you do make it to LA and while bypassing ‘the thing’ we are, in addition, planning an open mic / reading offsite. I’m coordinating with the Mercado la Paloma (https://foursquare.com/v/mercado-la-paloma/4b996968f964a520957935e3) on that. 6 minutes from LACC. Free of charge. No drink minimums. Bangin’ food. Very accessible. Just keeping you looped…sjm
So glad I have not offended you in any way 🙂 You make excellent points and while I don’t know anything about Kate Gale, you ripped her a new one, bravo! It saddens me that you weren’t able to get further in making things right for those with disabilities, but I’m not sure you could have done anything more. Take pride in standing up for what you believe in.
Oh, Good Grief. Do we really expect to gain friends and influence other people?. As a male friend loves to put it, “Nobody gives a rat’s ass . . . .” Sad truth, but really, nothing to do but get back to work applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. “Brevity,” avers the loquacious amongst us, “is the Soul of Wit.” Complaints are a waste of everybody’s time. Dear old Abe Lincoln had the right idea — put the venom on paper, polish, polish, polish it, then put the sour remarks in a drawer and forget about them.. Wherever human beings are gathered together, gripes will emerge..
That’s a very privileged position.
Intense and serious matter here.
I know I’m late on this post. I just did my research and read what is actually going on.
This is really sad and shame on Kate Gale for saying things like that.
You know something? I was this close to sending my manuscripts to Red Hen Press.
But now, no way!
So, I take it your experience with Red Hen Press has gone bad in the past?
What publishing company’s would you recommend that I can submit my work to?
P.S Hope to hear from you soon.
I had a good experience with the Los Angeles Review (through Red Hen), though I only worked with the guest editor on the issue, so I never had any interaction with Kate Gale.
Hm, I am not sure about other presses, but I would love to help you brainstorm. What sort of book are you submitting?
Poetry. I have this friend of mines, who majored in creative writing, poetry. He has been reading my work throughout the years. He told me that I am ready to get published, and he wants to make sure that I have a book. So, I told him I would love to submit my poetry manuscripts to Red Hen Press. He greatly encouraged me that I do so. I was this close submitting my manuscript poems to Red Hen, something in my gut told me not too, not right now.
And what do you know, Kate Gale was all over the internet with the controversy. I was taken aback by what was going on, and what she has said. I’m glad I went with my gut and no submit. I read through comments, stories, and even blog post stories about Kate Gale, and Red Hen. I have been wanting to get publish for some time now. I thought red hen would be my calling card, but, I guess not.
If you have time on your hands – Feel free to read my poems posted here on wordpress. I have a bunch. Trust me they’ll trip you out…its weird sci-fi poetry, mixed in with some satirical themes.
P.S Hope to hear from you soon. 🙂
I will definitely check out your poems! I am always down for sci-fi and satire!
I’m afraid I don’t know much about other venues for full-length poetry manuscripts. I will ask friends for ideas.
Awesome. Thank you. 🙂
Comments are closed.